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26th May

Job 29-31; Psalm 141

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
26th May

Job 29-31; Psalm 141

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Job we’ve read through the prologue, the three rounds of speeches, and started Job's final monologue. We read as Job was exalted as a model example of a righteous man. God held court with his divine beings and heard reports, including the report of the satan (think of this as a job title, rather than the big, bad guy of the Bible). The satan asked the question, was Job genuinely righteous and faithful or was he just behaving that way because God was blessing him?

So God put this theory to the test, removing all of his blessing and favour from Job and leaving him alone and with a body full of sores. But despite all this, Job didn't sin or turn from God. He did, however, lament his situation, crying out that it would be better if he hadn't been born, and asking God why he won't just let him die. To begin with, Job’s friends chose to sit with him and mourn with him.

But then they started to rebuke him, leading to the first round of speeches. Eliphaz started off gentle, praising Job for his past wisdom and pointing out that God is just and punishes the wicked. Either Job is innocent and God will rescue him, or he is guilty and deserves what he gets. Bildad claimed that Job's children must have been wicked, and that's why they were punished. He argued that we can see that those close to God flourish and those far from him suffer.

Zophar then jumped in to accuse Job of mocking God, saying that Job should be grateful because he deserves worse than what God is currently doing. Responding to them in turn and then as a whole, Job argued that he has every right to bring his case before God. God will do what he will do and Job is willing to accept that, as long as can speak to God himself. All these friends want to do is correct Job and hold on to the box they’ve put in God. They don’t want to comfort him or challenge their own assumptions about how God works.

This started round two of speeches, where the friends got harsher. They doubled down and what they've already said and explicitly blamed all the bad things happening to Job on Job and his children's wickedness. The friends wanted to hold on to their narrow, dogmatic understanding of God, while Job is wrestling with the nuance that comes from lived experience. For round three, Eliphaz started making up sins he assumed Job has committed, Bildad defaults back to God can do what he wants so deal with it, and Zophar doesn't even speak.

Job then started his monologue where he wrestles with the nuance that God does sometimes support the righteous and punish the wicked. But sometimes he doesn't. He also declared that wisdom can only come directly from God.

Job 29-31

Job now makes his last defence, a summary of his argument. He starts with his life before all this happened, so full of joy and always faithful. Back then, God's light guided Job. They were friends, and God was with him. Prosperity followed Job's every step. Yes, he was wealthy, and wealthy people are often hated. But in Job's case, he was well respected in his community. This respect wasn't just because Job has money. It was because he lived right. He served the poor, the orphan, and the widow.

He clothed himself in righteousness and justice. He helped those who were blind, and those who were unable to walk. Job would come against the wicked that oppressed others. Because of all this, and because of the prosperity he had been living in, Job assumed that he would live to a ripe old age, enjoying the fruit of his labour. People listened to him! They cared what he had to say and took his advice. When he encouraged them they responded to it. In every way, Job's life was perfect, and he had lived faithfully before God.

And yet now all that is gone. Where before he was respected, now he is mocked and laughed at, and to make it worse, by people who make up the dregs of society. The people that now mock Job are people that previously he wouldn't have trusted with his dogs. People that had nothing to contribute to society, who rummage around for scraps and are driven out of the community like thieves. They live in hovels like wild animals. These are the kinds of people that now mock Job. These people curse at Job and spit at him. They make his life difficult. The irony is that, in his former life, Job cared for these people. He wept for them. But now, instead of weeping for him, they mock him.

Job then turns from the mocking of those around him to the disease that still afflicts his body. It's like a beast gnawing at his bones. Even his clothes have been stained and infect with his disease, and they feel constrictive like they might choke him. And all of this is because of God. God has done this to Job. To Job, it feels like God is being cruel. Job points out that it's not like he hasn't called out to God for help. But as he cried out to God, expecting good, all he seemed to get was evil. He feels like one stumbling around in the darkness. He has become like the wild animals. His body is wasting away and all he knows is mourning.

Then, one last time, Job appeals to God. He starts by making a commitment to purity, to not look at a woman with lust that isn't his wife. He commits himself to walk God's way and then lists several sins, asking God to punish him for them if he has committed them. In other words, he is saying, “I'm innocent of this sin, but if somehow I'm not, then let me know and punish me for it so I can return to you”. The sins he lists included being dishonest, committing adultery, oppressing his servants, not helping the poor, being greedy, idolatry, mocking others, and not looking after his land properly. Having made this final commitment to God, Job stops talking. He has laid out his concerns and hurts and desires before God. Now all there is to do is wait and see if God responds.

Psalm 141

This psalm is attributed to king David and falls into the category of lament psalm.

Psalm 141:1-2 - Hear me and come quickly, O Lord

Psalm 141:3-5 - Keep me from evil

Psalm 141:6-7 - May I be disciplined and the wicked punished

Psalm 141:8-10 - The Lord is my refuge

The psalmist starts with a call to the Lord to hear and to come quickly. They ask that the Lord accept their offering of prayer. They then turn to their request. Unlike other lament psalms that often ask the Lord to deal with the psalmist’s enemies, this psalmist turns inwards to their own sinfulness. They ask the Lord the keep watch over their mouth to stop them from saying anything evil. May he also protect their heart from turning to evil and becoming like others who do wicked. They ask the Lord to let other righteous people discipline them and correct them so that they might avoid turning to evil.

The psalmist then turns to the wicked themselves, but rather than asking the Lord to deal with them, he simply stands in confidence that their own wickedness will be their own downfall. They will realise that the psalmist was trying to be kind to them, and will eventually be crushed and destroyed.

Finally, the psalmist asks that the Lord protect them from those who would do them harm. The wicked try to trap them, but the psalmist asks that the Lord causes them to fall into their own traps.

This psalm draws on much of the wisdom writings that recognise that, first and foremost, we must deal with ourselves. We need the help from the Lord to make sure that we are living right and not allowing evil to live in our hearts. Only once that has been done can we turn outwards and ask the Lord to deal with the problems we face.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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